New interim coach Alistair Edwards faces the toughest task in the A-League when he leads Perth Glory against table-toppers Central Coast.
Date: Saturday 16 February, 2013 Kick-off: 9.45pm AEDT, 6.45pm local Venue: nib Stadium
Head-to-head Played: 24 Wins: Perth 4, Central Coast 15 Draws: 5
Previous encounter Central Coast 1, Perth 0, 31 December 2012
Form: Past five matches: Central Coast: WDWDD Perth: LLLLL
The Game Newly appointed interim head coach Alistair Edwards will face the toughest task in the A-League on Saturday when he will lead Perth Glory against table-toppers Central Coast Mariners. In his first game in charge since taking over from Ian Ferguson, who was sacked on Monday, Edwards will attempt to end Glory's five-match losing streak.
The match at nib Stadium will see the league's bottom club host the league-leaders, with Central Coast heading to Perth without a loss in seven games. The Mariners smashed five goals past Wellington Phoenix last week and could be primed for another big victory against a team they have a good record against.
Central Coast have defeated Glory 15 times in 24 A-League matches between the two clubs, while the Mariners have also won two of their past three games in Perth.
With young strikers Bernie Ibini and Mitchell Duke having scored five goals between them in the past three matches, Central Coast head to Western Australia suddenly much more versatile up front. The Mariners had otherwise relied on Daniel McBreen for goals this season.
Central Coast will be a daunting opponent for Glory and their new manager Edwards. Perth have not won in 2013, having last tasted victory eight matches ago, while they have also failed to score in their past four fixtures.
Edwards may turn to Matias Cordoba, who made his debut off the bench in last week's 2-0 loss to Melbourne Heart, to provide some spark in the forward third, although the Argentine attacking midfielder is reportedly still short of match fitness.
The Big Issue Glory: Perth may not have won in eight matches but it is not because of an inconsistent starting line-up. During that winless run, Ferguson included nine players in his starting eleven at least six times. Will Edwards take the opportunity to give Glory's starting line-up a much-needed shake up?
Perth have copped plenty of criticism for not giving local youth a chance. It could be that if the ex-Glory player gives the likes of Ndumba Makeche and Brandon O'Neill a start alongside fellow Western Australian youngsters Jack Clisby and Chris Harold, the men in purple may just find the spark they need.
Mariners: Graham Arnold used the 10 goals his team have scored in their past three games to emphasise they are not in a post-Tom Rogic slump after Central Coast's demolition of Wellington last Friday.
While Arnold's comment is fair enough, three draws in five fixtures had allowed the chasing pack to close in on the Mariners. The question is; can Central Coast use last week's big win as the catalyst for an end-of-season run?
Arnold's men are four points ahead of Western Sydney Wanderers with Melbourne Victory and Adelaide United also within striking distance. To avoid another season of missed opportunities, the Mariners must complete the final eight rounds on an emphatic note.
Gamebreaker Bernie Ibini: Fresh from his trial with Club Brugge in Belgium, Ibini-Isei scored twice for Central Coast last week. The 20-year-old attacker has speed to burn and will do his hopes of playing in Europe no harm if he can go on a scoring run to end the A-League season.
Prediction: Glory 0-3 Mariners Perth have a terrible record against the Mariners with just five wins against the Gosford-based club including last season's penalty shootout triumph in the preliminary final. Central Coast have won six of the past nine against Glory and with the men in purple slumped at the bottom of the A-League ladder, Arnold's side should have few concerns about the trip to nib Stadium.
Despite losing Rogic to Celtic in the January transfer window, the Mariners are still clearly the best team in the competition. With the best defensive and goal-scoring record this season, Central Coast are simply a top-quality unit all across the park.
By contrast, Perth are averaging less than a goal a game this season and have hit the back of the net just four times in their past seven fixtures. Edwards needs to start praying for a miracle if he is to win his first match as a senior head coach.